Marijuana Withdrawal and Detox

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Detox can be a challenging, yet rewarding, part of ending marijuana use. With any drug or substance, detox is the first step toward recovery. When a person who has been using marijuana heavily stops taking the drug, their body may have a volatile reaction. This response is called withdrawal, which will likely be an uncomfortable — and sometimes even painful — process both physically and psychologically. Withdrawal is a natural part of detox, which is the body’s process of removing marijuana and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). If you are hoping to overcome a marijuana addiction, the first step is to detox from the drug. To detox as safely as possible and avoid unnecessary complications, it’s best to detox at an accredited medical facility like The Recovery Village. The Recovery Village offers a full continuum of care in addition to detox to minimize withdrawal symptoms and promote true healing.
Addiction is a brain disease, meaning marijuana use chemically alters the brain to make it think THC is a necessary substance. These chemical changes are why a person might have uncontrollable cravings to use marijuana, and also why their body may have violent reactions when they stop using it. Such reactions are part of withdrawal, which occurs during detox, the body’s natural process of removing toxic substances from the system. Withdrawal is a notoriously uncomfortable, often painful process. Many people find withdrawal symptoms so challenging that they would rather return to using drugs than continue detoxing in an effort to recover. However, detox is a necessary step in recovery, so withdrawal is an often inevitable part of the process. With the help of a doctor in a medical detox facility, it’s possible to reduce the unpleasant side effects and make the process more manageable. Withdrawal from marijuana is also known as marijuana withdrawal syndrome. Although some believe marijuana is not addictive, studies show marijuana addiction is possible, although it does have a lower occurrence rate than with other drugs. The younger a person starts using marijuana — especially in adolescence — the more likely they are to become addicted to the substance. Some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal syndrome include:
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shakiness
  • Fever
  • Low appetite or losing weight
  • Extreme sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tiredness during the day
Marijuana Withdrawal and Detox
There are many factors that affect marijuana withdrawal symptoms. The longer a person has used marijuana, and the higher dosage they consumed, the more severe these withdrawal symptoms may be. The causes of withdrawal symptoms directly relate to the amount and length of time the substance was used. These symptoms are the direct result of the body adjusting to life without marijuana. If you combine marijuana with other substances such as illicit drugs or alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may be heightened. Quitting cold turkey often causes these symptoms to heighten in comparison with tapering off of marijuana. Suddenly quitting marijuana can shock the brain into thinking it doesn’t have an essential chemical, causing withdrawal reactions to occur quickly and in full force. Tapering consists of lowering a marijuana dosage purposefully over time to make withdrawal symptoms more bearable. Participating in a rehabilitation program or visiting a detox center can often be more effective than what you can do at home to detox from marijuana.

Effects of Withdrawal

Detoxing from marijuana and other substances often cause side effect and withdrawal symptoms that can be uncomfortable at best — and potentially life-threatening at worst. Typical marijuana withdrawal symptoms include shaking, sweating, headaches, muscle cramps, and anxiety. Vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and watery eyes are common effects of withdrawal as the body works to remove THC from its system. If a person experiences these symptoms repeatedly over several days or even weeks, they can easily become dehydrated. If dehydration becomes severe enough, it can cause potentially fatal seizures. Dehydration will also likely deplete nutrients, which the body needs to maintain optimal health. Going through withdrawal can feel like an illness, so it’s important to go about it with the right help. Withdrawal is often most comfortable in a medically supervised facility, where doctors and nurses can monitor symptoms and help with discomfort. They may administer over-the-counter medications to help with common side effects, such as headaches and flu-like symptoms, or prescription medications to help with more serious symptoms such as tremors and insomnia.
Marijuana detox can help you move on from regular drug use. If you enroll at an inpatient rehab facility, detoxification is often the first step in the recovery process. If you do choose to detox on your own, please be aware of the risks and limits of what you can do at home. Ensure that you have a loved one who can monitor you for any adverse symptoms, and consult with a doctor before tackling any major medical milestones. It’s also important to remember that detox is usually only one small part of recovery. It’s what comes next that can really make a difference in long-term healing. If you undergo detox at a rehab center like The Recovery Village, detox will be the first crucial step in recovery from marijuana.

Duration of Symptoms

Overcoming withdrawal symptoms is like tackling a hurdle head-on. Symptoms may persist for days or weeks after detox. During the first day of detox, a person may feel anxious, irritable, or have trouble sleeping. These issues may persist for days or weeks. Cravings, sweating, chills and stomach ache are often the next major symptoms to develop and are usually the strongest during the second and third days of detox. After this initial timeline, many symptoms improve for most people, however, cravings and psychological side effects like depression may set in. That’s why it’s important to undergo treatment with the care of a medical professional. During the next several days and weeks of detox, the body can heal and move on without substances.

Length of Time of Detox

Whether you complete detox at a rehabilitation center, or at home, the timelines for detox and withdrawal can vary. For some, the timeline may be a relatively small window, while others may take days or weeks to overcome withdrawal symptoms. If you are participating in a rehab program, you can expect to stay in medical detox for a week or more, under the guidance of a trained professionals. Keep in mind that a detox timeline is unique to every person, so what may only take a few days for one person to accomplish could take weeks or months for someone else. The Recovery Village offers a comprehensive detox process that allows for a seamless transition into an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program. This process includes:
  1. Evaluation
  2. Detoxification
  3. Treatment
  4. Aftercare Planning
Evaluation: Before beginning the detox process, The Recovery VIllage staff will assess each client’s relationship with marijuana to get a sense of how to best treat each case. This evaluation includes drug tests, and mental health evaluations to determine if any co-occurring disorders are present. Detoxification: During detox, the goal is to make clients as comfortable as possible so they can heal accordingly. Treatment: Following detox, staff initiates a customized treatment plan that may include individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy and more. Alternative therapies, such as equine or art therapy (varies by facility) may also be included. During treatment, clients will address any co-occurring disorders and other issues to promote internal healing. Aftercare Planning: Nearing the end of your treatment, the center will also begin to prepare an aftercare plan for clients. Aftercare planning is an essential step in treatment because it empowers people to continue their sobriety after they leave The Recovery Village. Aftercare planning arrangements include scheduling doctor appointments, counseling appointments and 12-step meeting membership for when you return home.
While some medications exist to help people detox from drugs like heroin and cocaine more easily, there is currently no specific taper medication for marijuana withdrawal. Doctors can administer medications that may treat individual symptoms, but there is no specific medication to help stop marijuana cravings or the withdrawal process in its entirety. Alternative marijuana withdrawal syndrome remedies include:
  • Attending 12-step recovery programs
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Healthy diet

What Works and What Doesn’t

When going through detox and recovery, it’s important to take meaningful, deliberate steps toward success. Finding support groups, practicing mindfulness and finding a new passion are all strategies for long-term healing. Programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous are known for providing a sense of community and camaraderie among those in recovery. Those going through detox therapy may find an added level of comfort in the emotional support a 12-step program can provide, both during and after treatment. Being surrounded by recovery success stories is also motivation and can help keep someone on track as they detox. Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help provide a sense of peace and relaxation in stressful or painful scenarios. Meditation is a simple practice and requires no outside tools or knowledge. To meditate, simply sit or lay down on the ground and close your eyes. Breathe in and out, noticing your breath. Some people count their breaths as they meditate. Others focus on the feeling of their lungs expanding and contracting. Eventually, as this goes on, you’ll learn to let go of external thoughts and stressors. You may meditate for as long as you choose, but studies show even as few as three minutes of meditation per day can be beneficial. Some also choose to repeat affirmations while they meditate. Affirmations are positive statements a person says about themselves that promote a positive mindset and outlook. Repeating affirmations such as “I am strong and I will overcome my marijuana addiction,” can help you feel relaxed, centered and capable of completing the task at hand. Accompanying meditation with gentle, healthy exercises and eating balanced meals will also give the body the fuel it needs to fight withdrawal symptoms and help you recover sooner. Even taking a short, daily walk can make a significant difference in relieving withdrawal symptoms. What doesn’t help in your recovery, on the other hand, is holding on to the people, places, and things that may contribute to marijuana use and addiction. If you’re serious about moving on from drugs or alcohol, it’s important to maintain a supportive environment and find people to connect with. By undergoing marijuana detox at a licensed facility with supportive staff, you’ll get the help you need to move forward without substances.

If you’re ready to make marijuana detox a priority, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative who understands your struggle and can point you down the path to healing. With locations across the country and a full continuum of care from medical detox to outpatient and sober living housing, The Recovery Village is your resource for beginning a drug-free future.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana Withdrawal Is Real.” NIDA for Teens, National Institutes of Health, 2 Apr. 2015, teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/marijuana-withdrawal-real. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017. O’Connor, Lynn E. “How to Get Off Marijuana.” Psychology Today, 22 Jan. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-empathic-nature/201401/how-get-marijuana. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.
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